Technology has become important over the last twelve months. With so many people working remotely or from home we have had to lean on technology to get the work done. Some tech is so common that we take it for granted like clean water and telephones. It continues to evolve and as it does it becomes more embedded in our everyday lives. Gone are the days of a dial up modem beeping and whistling, clogging up a telephone line. Some of us remember the whir and rattle of a dot matrix printer. With technology everywhere we don’t think about it or how we can use it to its fullest to help make our work productive and not just easy.
Have you ever wanted a robot butler? Who hasn’t?! It is a dream to be able to click our fingers and have the work magically completed. Maybe one day. There are plenty of simple automated tools that can be used to make work productive. Learning a few simple formulas in spreadsheet programs can save tapping away on a calculator. You can create a simple spreadsheet with those formulas saved so you never have to look up a formula or conversion rate ever again. Hot keys or short cuts can speed up a document or email (there is more than simply Ctrl C, Ctrl V you know!). You can, with a few simple clicks, create your own autocorrect shortcuts so you only need to type kr for it to convert to Kind Regards etc.
2. Group Chat
Death by email is a modern phrase and a first world problem if ever there was one. Email is so simple and it is everywhere it is tricky not to use it but it can hinder making our work productive. With new messages flooding in through the day the earlier ones slip off the screen and once they are out of sight they are out of mind. Group chat programs keep the team together in a virtual room so the simple questions don’t create a waterfall of reply all responses that overwhelm your inbox.
Covid made collaboration tricky to start with. We were used to very analogue methods of getting out heads together. We would gather in a room, talk, use whiteboards and flipcharts to bounce ideas back and forth. But was that work productive? Not always. We are now so used to video chat and screen sharing that it would be an unproductive backward step to assume everyone had the same energy for a project or idea at the same time. If nothing else at least we save the time wasted in getting up from our desks.
4. File Sharing
Did you know that the British Library in London is the World’s largest by the number of items it has in its archives. Estimates suggest the number is close to two hundred million. That is a lot of knowledge but it is not easy to share that knowledge. Your team will have common documents, guides and procedures that everyone needs access to. How do you manage that in a remote or hybrid work model? You could email a copy to everyone and trust them to keep it up to date or you can use file sharing applications. These keep your library in the cloud accessible to the team and easily updated (or deleted) when required. Sometimes making work productive is as simple as only having to do a job once.
5. Onboarding and Training
Digital onboarding and training really came of age during Covid. Not being able to bring staff into a physical location threw up challenges that technology overcame. To make this type of work productive the use of video conferencing and screen sharing are invaluable. Beyond that there are thousands, possibly even millions, of videos and tutorials online that are easy to follow to save writing your own.
Back when big stuffy offices were a thing everyone had plants, pictures of their cat, inboxes and outboxes strewn over their workspace. It was a small corner of home that they set up with their job for life. After a while the “clear desk policy” became common and we were told that a tidy desk equalled a tidy mind. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. We do know that not being able to find something is stressful, frustrating and does not make work productive. The same goes for your computer desktop. How many documents and links do you have spread over that? Can you even see the picture you chose as the wallpaper? Create some simple folders and sub-folders on your desktop and reduce your screen anxiety and find things quickly.
Time blocking is a frequently used time management technique and one used by high performing individuals to make their work productive. By ruthlessly scheduling your day using a calendar app or program you can create time discipline for yourself. Setting specific time aside for regular tasks, like client follow up calls, will mean that you focus effort on that during the allocated block. Focussing on one task gets better results than trying to juggle it or squeeze it in between other jobs. Make a schedule, stick to it.
8. Customer Service
Automating aspects of customer service could save you hours everyday. In his first book, The Four Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss explains how he noted all client questions over a month and created an FAQ sheet that was included in an auto response email. It cut down requests over night. There will be common requests that your business gets. An auto response could be the thing that makes your work productive.
9. Avoid Distractions
Technology might not be the answer to all of your productivity problems. One way to make your work productive might be to turn technology off. We are so used to using it for everything and letting all the programs run in the background we forget that we can turn it off. Consider changing the way email notifications show on your screen, think about switching them off for a few hours while you concentrate. Or you could set up certain sites to be blocked by your browser so you don’t spend an hour accidentally watching cat videos. Technology provides us with more tools than we know how to use. Sometimes we just need to sit and think quietly.